Alcohol and its Consumption in Medieval Cairo: The Story of a Habit

Beer - photo by abbyladybug /Flickr

Through the ages of Cairene history the alcoholic beverages, entangled in political and religious developments, depended more on prevailing doctrinal currents than on people’s habitual or taste inclinations. Therefore, the story of these beverages’ consumption is – not surprisingly – a turbulent one.

Twelve Thousand Cooks and a Muhtasib: Some Remarks on Food Business in Medieval Cairo

Cairo - photo by Marwa Morgan  / Flickr

The meals offered by street cooks were probably lacking in subtleness and elegancy if compared to the specialties served by the “caliphs’ kitchen” or by the Arabic-Islamic haute cuisine whose recipes were written down in the cookbooks for the elites

10 Cool Facts about Saint Catherine

Caravaggio (1598) - Saint Catherine of Alexandria

Saint Catherine of Alexandria and her wheel have been well recognized symbols since the beginning of the Middle Ages. Here are 10 interesting tidbits about Saint Catherine:

Egyptian cemetery may contain one million graves from Roman and Byzantine eras

Egyptian cemetery find - photo from BYU Egypt's Facebook page

The announcement of a potentially huge gravesite in Egypt has led the world’s media to make claims that a million mummies have been discovered. Now, the entire archaeological project might be in jeopardy.

Unexpected Evidence concerning Gold Mining in Early Byzantium

Roman gold mine

One of the consequences of the decline of Roman imperial might was the shortage of slaves at state-run mines. Consequently, criminals were often sentenced to damnatio ad metallum. The need for gold especially soared when the gold solidus was introduced at the beginning of the fourth century.

The Perils of Polygamy in 15th century Cairo

arabic woman

Under medieval Islamic law, a man could marry up to four women. However, if accounts from 15th century Egypt are indicative, it would be rare for such an arrangement to work out for all parties.

Christian Charm Discovered on 1,500-year-old Tax Receipt

Photo courtesy University of Manchester

A 1,500 year old papyrus fragment found in The University of Manchester’s John Rylands Library has been identified as one the world’s earliest surviving Christian charms.

Amending the Ascetic: Community and Character in the Old English Life of St. Mary of Egypt

Saint Mary of Egypt - British library

Among the most eligible saints for such treatment, Mary of Egypt deserves particular consideration: her popularity is evidenced by over a hundred extant Greek manuscripts of her Life and her uniquely prominent position in the Lenten liturgical cycle in the Eastern Church.

Restaurants, Inns and Taverns That Never Were: Some Reflections on Public Consumption in Medieval Cairo

Citadel of Cairo from the 19th century

The article shows that, contrary to a commonly accepted assumption, no public consumption facilities such as restaurants, taverns or inns existed in medieval Cairo.

The Unwritten Chapter: Notes towards a Social and Religious History of Geniza Magic

Officina magica  essays on the practice of magic in antiquity

How might the historian of religions write a social and religious history of Jewish magic in the medieval Islamicate world?

Two Rabbinic Views of Christianity in the Middle Ages

Picture of Medieval Jews

In the sessions of our section over the past decade, I introduced a significant distinction between two rabbinic attitudes in the Mediterranean countries during the Middle Ages of 12th and 13th centuries as to their view of Christianity.

The Daily Life of Slavery and the Global Reach of Slavery in Medieval Egypt, 969-1250 CE

18th century map of Egypt

This dissertation examines the geography of the slave trade, the role of slavery in the household, and the lives of domestic slave women in the Egyptian Jewish community under the rule of the Fatimid caliphate and Ayyubid sultanate

The Red Sea and the Port of Clysma. A Possible Gate of Justinian’s Plague

Plague of Justinian

The aim of this study is to present the sea and land commercial routes of the Byzantine Egypt and their role in the dissemination of the plague bacteria Yersinia pestis from the Red Sea to Mediterranean ports. The Mediterranean port of Pelusium was considered as the starting point of the first plague pandemic…

Drug Overdose, Disability and Male Friendship in Fifteenth-Century Mamluk Cairo

Citadel of Cairo from the 19th century

Shihab al-Din al-Hijazi (1388-1471) was an unexceptional legal student in Mamluk Cairo, who, at the age of 24, overdosed on marking nut, a potent plant drug valued for its memory-enhancing properties

Ibn Wāṣil: An Ayyūbid Perspective on Frankish Lordships and Crusades


Ibn Wāṣil (604/1208-697/1298) was a relatively prominent scholar and administrator who had close links with the political and military elites of Ayyūbid- and early Mamlūk-period Egypt and Syria throughout his career.

Environmental Effects in the Agriculture of Medieval Egypt

18th century map of Egypt

Agriculture has been the main source of the economy for all dynasties established in Egypt and the Mamluk kingdom was no exception.

Medieval Byzantine Magical Amulets and Their Tradition

Medieval Byzantine Magical Amulets And Their Tradition - Jeffrey Spier - Books Covers

A diverse yet distinctive group of magical amulets has periodically attracted the attention of scholars from Renaissance times to the present. The amulets take many forms, including engraved gems and cameos, enamel pendants, die-struck bronze tokens, cast or engraved pendants of gold, silver, bronze, and lead, and rings of silver and bronze.

Grain Prices in Cairo and Europe in the Middle Ages

wheat medival - photo courtesy British Library

How did price levels and trends in Cairo compare to those in Europe? 

Synthesis of Thought and Action: Muslim-Christian Political, Military and Theological Cohesion From the Time of the First Caliphs to the Reign of the Fatimid Empire

St. Mark Coptic Cathedral in Alexandria

Muslim-Christian theological synthesis, beginning in the Umayyad period and culminating in eleventh century Fatimid Egypt, will be explored through the particular lens of Coptic-Christian clerical and lay efforts to appropriate the Arabic cultural language as a means of religious survival and dialogue with Muslim apologists.

The Black Death in the Middle East and Europe

Black death egypt

I specifically look at England and Egypt as case studies and I’m really gonna talk more about Egypt here.

Sending Home for Mom and Dad: The Extended Family Impulse in Mamluk Politics


Although the biological sons of sultans did inherit their father’s positions, everyone, including the dying sultan and the son himself, knew that the son was functioning as a placeholder, since real power would then be assumed by one or even multiple commanders, either covertly, in which case the nominal sultan remained as a figurehead, or overtly, in which case the nominal sultan was deposed.

Sayyida Hurra: The Isma’ili Sulayhid Queen of Yemen Farhad Daftary


This article explores the career of queen Sayyida Hurra, she was the political and religious leader of Sulayhid Yemen, which was an extremely rare occurrence and privilege for a woman in Fatimid times

Plagues, Epidemics and Their Social and Economic Impact on the Egyptian Society during the Mameluke Period

Burial of plague victims - The Black Death

The study aims at shedding light on plagues and epidemics that hit Egypt during the Mameluke period through describing the plague disease and the plagues and epidemics that hit Egypt, and their social and economic effects on the Egyptian society, The study is based on some historical sources contemporary of the Mameluke period, especially the book “Al-Suluk li-marifatiduwal Al-muluk” by Al Maqrizi.

Life and death in late ancient and early medieval Egyptian monasteries

Life and death in late ancient and early medieval Egyptian monasteries

Since 2006, Stephen Davis has served as Executive Director of the Yale Monastic Archaeology Project, conducting field work and training graduate students at two sites in Egypt: the White Monastery near Sohag and the Monastery of John the Little in Wadi al-Natrun.

Bīmāristān Al-Manṣūrī: State and Medical Practice in Mamluk Egypt (1285-1390)

Mamluk Medical treatise

The Bīmāristān was the major part of a huge complex built in the center of Cairo in 1285 by the Mamluk Sultan al-Manṣūr Qalāwūn, who was the founder of the Qalāwūnid dynasty/dawlah that ruled the Mamluk empire for over a century

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